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Iraqi government forces battleing an al Qaeda-linked insurgence near the border of Syria killed 25 of the Islamist militants in an air strike Sunday, according to local officials.
Al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) captured areas in Ramadi and large parts of Falluja —Iraqi cities near Syria that the Sunni rebels are vying for — last week.
The airstrike targeted eastern portions of Ramadi Sunday in an effort to oust the Islamist group, which has never held a major city in the province for a number of days.
ISIL militants remained strong in Falluja though, as tribesmen in the area have joined the uprising against the government.
Iraqi government officials and tribal leaders are reluctant to send the army into Falluja due to the al Qaeda-affiliated group’s reputation for assassinations and bombings.
Kerry admitted that the U.S. was "very, very concerned" by the fighting, and called ISIL "the most dangerous players in that region."
Falih Eisa, a member of an Iraqi provincial council, said the strategy was figuring out how to start “negotiating outside the city with the tribes to decide how to enter the city without allowing the army to be involved.”
One tribal leader said fighting ISIL would agitate the violence and claimed the number of ISL fighters on the outskirts of the city was insignificant.
However, U.S. officials called the situation "extremely dire," and Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the U.S. would help the Iraqi government fight the ISIL rebels, but specified that the U.S. would not deploy troops to Iraq to mitigate the insurgence.
Reuters contributed to this report.